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Maduro wins Venezuela polls amid controversy

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Amid food shortages stemming from a severe economic crisis, just 46% of the electorate turned out to vote.

The main opposition candidate, Henri Falcón, rejected the result soon after the polls closed.

“We do not recognise this electoral process as valid… we have to have new elections in Venezuela,” he said

With more than 90% of the votes counted, Mr Maduro, 55, had 67.7% – 5.8 million votes – National Electoral Council chief Tibisay Lucena announced. Mr Falcón won 21.2% – 1.8 million votes – she said.

What has been the reaction to the result?

“They underestimated me,” Mr Maduro told cheering supporters outside his presidential palace in Caracas, as fireworks went off and confetti was fired in the air.

Mr Falcón has alleged that the vote was rigged in Mr Maduro’s favour, by abuse of the scanning of state-issued benefits cards used for accessing food.

Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro has won re-election to another six-year term, in a vote marred by an opposition boycott and claims of vote-rigging.

Amid food shortages stemming from a severe economic crisis, just 46% of the electorate turned out to vote.

The main opposition candidate, Henri Falcón, rejected the result soon after the polls closed.

“We do not recognise this electoral process as valid… we have to have new elections in Venezuela,” he said

With more than 90% of the votes counted, Mr Maduro, 55, had 67.7% – 5.8 million votes – National Electoral Council chief Tibisay Lucena announced. Mr Falcón won 21.2% – 1.8 million votes – she said.

 

The elections were supposed to be held in December 2018, but the National Constituent Assembly, made up exclusively of Mr Maduro’s supporters, brought them forward.

The opposition Democratic Unity coalition said the elections were moved to take advantage of divisions within the coalition. Its two biggest candidates were also barred from running, and others have fled the country.

There were a handful of minor candidates but only Mr Falcón, a governor under the late President Hugo Chávez, was seen as a viable alternative to President Maduro. He came from the same socialist party as President Maduro, but left in 2010 to join the opposition.

A worker passes by electoral propaganda of Venezuelan opposition presidential candidate Henri Falcon, in Barquisimeto, Venezuela Image copyrightAFP
Image captionMr Falcón was the only real contender – but broke ranks with the rest of the opposition

Mr Falcón, who ran despite the boycott, has said he believes the majority of Venezuelans want to remove Mr Maduro from office.

The rest of the opposition, however, has frowned on his breaking ranks – with some even branding him a traitor.

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Disappointment, not outrage

Analysis: Katy Watson, BBC Latin America correspondent, Caracas

Such was the expectation that Nicolas Maduro would win that his rivals admitted defeat, denouncing the result before it had even been announced. There was never going to be any result other than a Maduro victory – and Venezuelans knew that.

It feels like most people here are no longer outraged. Disappointed, maybe, but it’s par for the course in a country where political freedom feels increasingly limited.

Mr Maduro has promised change in Venezuela – why he needed a second mandate to do that is anyone’s guess. He’s already been in the job five years. Added to that, change for the better under Mr Maduro is unlikely. With international pressure likely to build after these results, and with a crumbling economy, his job is harder than ever – as are the lives of Venezuelans here.

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Was the election legitimate or not?

Part of the reason for the opposition boycott was the outcome of elections for state governorships last year. Mr Maduro’s party won 17 of 23 states – and his opponents cried foul.

That was after the company that makes Venezuela’s voting machines said, in July last year, that the figures had been tampered with during the controversial election of the constituent assembly.

p05yzl95.jpg?w=708&ssl=1
Media captionThe search for food in Venezuela

It does not help that the electoral commission is mostly made up of government supporters – like the powerful constituent assembly and the supreme court.

Mr Maduro’s camp has claimed that the election was a fair process.

International observers including the EU and US suggested they might impose sanctions on Venezuela if democracy was undermined, while some of Venezuela’s Latin American neighbours said they might not officially recognise the outcome.

What about ordinary Venezuelan people?

An economic crisis in the country has created an inflation rate measured at several hundred percent, while the economy has shrunk dramatically every year, creating a shortage of basics like food and medicine.

In some poorer parts of the country, 70% of children suffer from malnutrition.

p060dp99.jpg?w=708&ssl=1 Media captionVenezuelan cash crisis: How a coffee costs wads of banknotes

The national currency, the bolívar, is virtually worthless, and long queues form at banks where there simply isn’t enough cash to make purchases.

Residents carry large bags, filled with banknotes – or try to pay with cards where possible. Faced with the difficulties of life at home, hundreds of thousands have left the country – many to neighbouring Colombia or Brazil/BBC.

 

The Independent Observer

John Sakala is a Journalist yearning for independent journalism

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